Recovery from Surgery #5

Tomorrow marks nine weeks since my last surgery. Since the last update came from Jesse when I was discharged from the hospital, I figured I should get back on here and provide an update of my own. I realize that it’s a bit late to be adding all of these details, but most of it is for my own sake. It’s helpful to know that I have all of the information on the blog, in case I ever need to refer to it in the future. If you don’t care about all of the post-op side effects, please feel free to disregard this post. :)

My June surgery was SO much harder to recover from than the one I had in May. Both surgeries clocked in at about 11 hours, but the June surgery included a craniotomy, which is something I’ve not gone through before. The doctors told me that I should expect it to take about 8–10 weeks to start feeling back to normal and they were definitely right! I’ve suffered from a myriad of issues, including facial numbness, eye blurriness, jaw tightness and the expected exhaustion. For the first eight weeks after surgery, I was also very restricted. I was allowed to walk, but that’s about it. No bending, no straining, no lifting. Nothing. After last week’s appointment, I’ve been cleared to start SLOWLY increasing my activity and I can now lift 10–15 lbs., which means I can pick up Rooney! :)

One of the most challenging issues I had after surgery was due to an anti-seizure medicine (Keppra) they prescribed to me for the first four weeks post-op. Unfortunately, the side effects that go with the medicine were pretty brutal and I suffered from most of the ones listed. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but my first four weeks after surgery were some of the hardest of my life (and probably my husband’s and mom’s life, too). The medicine made me very lethargic, irritable, depersonalized and anxious. The worst part is that we didn’t realize it was the medicine causing it until two days before I was done taking it (when I finally read the list of side effects online). We all thought that the surgery had more or less changed my personality, which is even more terrifying than chalking it up to a medicine that I needed. It was a huge sigh of relief to know that I would hopefully start feeling better once I got off the medicine.

Sure enough, less than a week later, I started to lighten up and feel more like myself. It was such a relief to us all and my mom finally felt like it would be alright for her to go home. She was with us for five weeks after surgery and not only did she nurse me back to health so that Jesse could go to work, she also filled us with two freezers full of meals to help us get by for the next few months. It was more help than we could’ve asked for and just what we needed to be able to survive this summer.

Another post-op issue that occurred was facial numbness and eye blurriness. Immediately after my surgery, while still in the recovery room, I couldn’t feel the left side of my face (and still can’t). So, when I rubbed my eye, I couldn’t tell how hard I was rubbing it. I thought that I had something in my eye, so I kept rubbing it to see if I could clear up my vision. In the process, I severely scratched my cornea, but the doctors didn’t realize it. They were worried that the surgery might have impacted my vision, so I was referred to an ophthalmologist to get checked out. After a pretty detailed appointment, he determined that all of my nerves are fine (thank God!) and that it was just a scratched cornea, which could take 8–10 weeks to heal. I’m on week nine now and I still have some of the blurriness, but I’m SO much better. I’m hoping that I’ll be back to normal in a few more weeks.

Finally, as part of the surgery, they cut through a bunch of my jaw muscle to do the craniotomy. Because of this, I am dealing with not being able to open my mouth all the way. It’s getting better each week, but this is another item that will take several weeks to heal. I’m definitely doing much better than I was a month after surgery, but it feels so weird to not be able to fully extend it. For the first month it really impacted the way I talked, ate, yawned, etc. My speech is finally mostly back to normal, but eating can still be a bit challenging. During my follow-up appointment last week, the doctors wrote me a referral to get some physical therapy to help strengthen and stretch it. If my range isn’t back to normal in the next two weeks, I’ll probably go ahead and take them up on the offer.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough couple of months, but I’m finally on the mend. I’m back to feeling like I can socialize a bit and get out of the house. I’ve been spending most of my time painting at home, but I also try to get out and move a bit each week. I have one more follow-up appointment this Friday, which involves a lumbar puncture, so I’ll try to provide another update after that appointment. xo, Susan